Notes: Freeway Series plan; Ohtani stays hot

March 26th, 2021

The starting rotation to begin the season for the Angels might have gotten a little clearer.

Angels manager Joe Maddon announced probable pitchers for his club’s remaining Cactus League games and the upcoming Freeway Series during a morning press conference on Thursday.

Griffin Canning and Andrew Heaney are both expected to throw on Sunday to open the Freeway Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Angel Stadium.

Two-way player Shohei Ohtani is expected to take the mound on Monday when the series moves over to Dodger Stadium, while lefty José Quintana is set to make an appearance in the final exhibition game on Tuesday.

Maddon said the decision to have Ohtani hit and pitch in his start at Dodger Stadium is still up in the air.

“We haven’t had that conversation yet,” he said. “If he’s into it, I would.”

The Angels plan to deploy a six-man rotation this season.

Maddon said he is pleased with what he’s seen from his starting rotation this spring and added that he is looking forward to utilizing a six-man rotation.

“I like the history of pitching with the extra days,” Maddon said. “Theoretically, you should be able to absorb more pitches per start as well [as] innings per start based on the extra rest in between.”

Opening Day starter Dylan Bundy got his last Spring Training action on Thursday in a start against the Colorado Rockies, while starting pitcher Alex Cobb will throw Saturday in non-Cactus League action.

Ohtani goes deep again

The 2018 AL Rookie of the Year continues to impress everyone this spring.

Ohtani launched his fifth Cactus League home run in the first inning of a 6-5 loss against the Rockies.

The 363-foot opposite-field homer off lefty Austin Gomber had an exit velocity of 95.6 mph and a 42-degree launch angle.

Before Thursday's game, Mike Trout said Ohtani’s two-way abilities give the Angels firepower both on the mound and in the batter’s box.

“You’re adding two stars,” Trout said of Ohtani. “You’re adding an ace and you’re adding a guy in the middle of the lineup that can bang.”

Ohtani’s five spring home runs are the most for an Angels player since Albert Pujols’ six home runs in 2016. He also matches Hideki Matsui's total for most hit by a Japanese-born player, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Opening Day lineup is still not official

With Opening Day just a week away, Maddon held back on making the official announcement for his club’s starting lineup.

Many of the club’s expected starters, ranging from returning stars like outfielder Trout and third baseman Anthony Rendon to newer acquisitions like shortstop José Iglesias, were penciled in to start against the Rockies on Thursday.

Maddon said the lineup was not his decision, but rather that of bench coach Mike Gallego.

“Honestly, I didn’t make it,” Maddon said. “I’ve always like to have my bench coach do that during Spring Trainings. It’s a great way to empower them.”

No “white smoke” on José Rojas decision

A number of roster moves that included optioning infielders Luis Rengifo and Jack Mayfield have opened the door for infielder José Rojas to start the year on the big league squad.

Rojas has made noise with his bat and his versatility to play multiple positions this spring.

The Anaheim native has posted a .333 batting average, two home runs and six RBIs in 22 spring games so far. He has seen playing time around the infield and in left field this spring.

Despite the moves that optioned both Rengifo and Mayfield, Maddon said there is no official announcement on Rojas yet.

“There’s no white smoke or news yet, but I talk to [Rojas] all the time,” he said. “Been a big fan from last year. The kid does everything right.”

Rojas received a non-roster invite to camp this year and is currently not on the 40-man roster.

Beckham’s first Spring Training

There’s always a first for everyone. For Trout and his family, this spring is a first for them.

Last July, Trout and his wife Jessica welcomed their son Beckham Aaron Trout to the family, which makes this Spring Training the first for the newest member of their family.

Some of the family time spent around the ballpark has included Trout taking Beckham into the batting cages to watch teammates like Pujols and Justin Upton.

“I take [Beckham] in there for five to 10 minutes and when I take him out he screams, so I really think he’s enjoying the baseball thing, so I’m really excited for that,” the Angels center fielder said.